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The Long Wait for Tailor-Made TV

"I Want My iTV," our Nov. 19 Cover Story, looked at what's stalling personalized TV--the ability to watch shows and pull content off the Web without leaving the couch. I expected readers to be split, with the over-30 crowd waiting, as I am, for the day when TV can manage it all. But many of you seem to be very comfortable viewing content on your computer monitors or rigging up your own version of iTV, using gizmos like Web-ready game consoles. A point we may have underplayed: With PC screens topping 30 inches and add-on TV tuners readily available, it has become much easier for some of you to take the TV set out of the equation altogether.

I have refused to hook up any TV/satellite/cable provider. I just want a service that allows me to go online, select certain shows, and have those shows waiting for me on a DVR. A lot of my friends feel the same way. We don't need tons of TV when we spend so much time online.

Screen name: smg

I read your iTV wishful thinking on my 24-inch iMac. With EyeTV and a RadioShack digital antenna on my roof, I record and watch high-definition TV all the time, free. Plus I have access to everything on the Web.

Screen name: Folsom49er

I am the mother of two teenage boys, and the article made me wonder if maybe we know something you don't. We don't have any problem connecting our TV to the Internet and surfing the Web. The Nintendo Wii and the PlayStation 3, both of which we own, allow either wired or wireless connections.

You can browse the Web, post on blogs, look for movies, watch YouTube videos, whatever. The PS3 that we have has a memory card slot for viewing digital media, a Blu-ray disk player for watching movies, and 80 gigabytes of hard drive storage space. What more do you need? I'm no geek, and if I can do it, I think anyone could.

Name Withheld

I got rid of my television two years ago and can now watch all major network shows free over the Internet. The genie is out of the bottle.

Screen name: Mike

The TV industry is in for a lot of trouble. Right now, it's a perfect 1950s-style experience: NBC, for example, is a "we tell you what's good and how to watch it" network. I tried watching Heroes on the NBC Web site, but it didn't have two of the three episodes I wanted to see. And the one I watched had the same commercial at every enforced commercial break. No thanks.

Screen name: Wayne

From my desk in Germany, I'm watching an American television show, only days after its first run, from a feed out of Asia with good enough picture quality on a 21-inch screen. Yes, the technology is there, and I'm benefiting from it. Every day that the broadcasters, producers, and distributers delay is a day of lost revenue, especially since what I'm watching costs me just the price of a high speed connection.

Screen name: Deutschexpat

You will get your iTV. Be patient. Unlike in the 1940s, when standards were set by the National Television System Committee, there is no specific road map or governing body for Internet- television integration.

If CEOs of Internet software or hardware companies are making money with their product, it is naive to think they are in a position to open their code to create an industry standard for that market segment. Only the Federal Communications Commission could mandate such a process.

Those of us who have been in the business since the mid-1990s, when postage-stamp-size streaming media was just being deployed, understand that the industry is in a time of fast-moving change.

Aside from technical challenges, there are social and monetary issues. In this writers' strike, the demand is for a share of the revenue from programming destined for Internet delivery.

Questions like these require new definitions of what iTV programming is, how people are to be compensated, and what consumers want (and will pay for)--and on what platform.

Gilbert Hammer




Telling a Boss the Harsh Truth

Best Welch column yet: "It's insular at the top" (The WelchWay, Nov. 19). Just one small problem: There is no formal way an organization can accomplish what you prescribe. More true leaders have to step up and recognize and value the truth-tellers or these employees will leave to become coaches and consultants.

Jeremy Garlington


Big MAC and Chicago Machinations

I was fascinated by Felix Rohatyn's story about global leaders urging President Gerald Ford not to let New York go bankrupt in the 1970s ("City to Big Mac: So long," BTW, Nov. 19). I have another story, one I've kept to myself for over 25 years.

I was in the middle of this effort, as assistant to Mayor Abe Beame and director of New York's Washington office. As such, I helped lead the effort to obtain loan guarantees. One night I was in the office of the late Senator William Proxmire (D-Wis.) [then chair of the Senate Banking Committee] along with New York State lobbyists. Proxmire was on the phone with Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley (the current mayor's father) and motioned for us not to let on we were there.

After Proxmire hung up, he told us Chicago banks were pushing to let New York go bankrupt in order to hurt the city's "money center" banks. In those days, banking was not national, and New York and Chicago were in feverish competition. Proxmire told us Daley would publicly support loan guarantees but not help much behind the scenes.

The senator asked us not to tell anyone about this, not even Beame or Governor Hugh Carey, since it would only hurt getting federal assistance. Ford's stance against New York was bewildering to me, since a former New York governor, Nelson Rockefeller, was Vice-President. Ford's stance played a role in his losing to Jimmy Carter, whom I joined in the White House as a Deputy Assistant.

Bruce Kirschenbaum


Lower Rates for Fund Managers

Maria Bartiromo's interview with U.S. Representative Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) provides a classic example of what is wrong with the income tax system (Facetime, Nov. 19). Private equity fund managers get to call multimillion payoffs "carried interest," taxed at 15%. Bonus payments are just as performance-based.

A case could be made that any basic salary is performance-based, since a person would theoretically be out of a job if he or she didn't perform. I don't know where Rangel is going, but he is right on this one. Maybe he'll go after the farmers next.

John Costello


With a Credit Card, You Don't Feel the Pain

"Is $100 oil as lethal as it looks?" (In Depth, Nov. 19) suggests that drivers aren't reacting to rising prices because the increases aren't so high. There may be another reason. We use plastic. So we fill up and drive off, oblivious to what the gas actually costs. Paying with a credit card has distanced us from the rising cost of fuel.

Dan Cooper


New Jobs? Yeah—Flipping Burgers

In October more than 160,000 jobs were added to U.S. company payrolls ("The economy on the edge," In Depth, Nov. 19). But the overwhelming majority were relatively low-level clerical or service positions. Is that a reflection of a healthy economy?

Lawrence Greenberg


Housing's down, credit is hard to come by, auto companies are in trouble, banks are tanking. What's next, commercial real estate? You betcha.

Screen name: mtnmike

Israel's Woes Sound Like America's

"The crisis in Israel's classrooms" (What's Next, Nov. 19) sounds familiar, given what's going on in with U.S. school budgets and salaries. The No Child Left Behind Act makes it harder to fund schools in need and to hire qualified teachers. If the U.S. doesn't address the issue of compensation, its schools may find themselves in the same boat as Israel's once enviable system.

Screen name: random

The Fastest-Growing PR Firm

For some reason, "The bad boy of buzz and his PR problem" (What's Next, Nov. 12) didn't include the information that 5W Public Relations was named the nation's fastest-growing firm for three consecutive years and was honored as an Inc. 500 company. The writer seems to feel 5W should be ashamed to enjoy its success. Why should a firm not promote its services in a highly competitive industry? We do, and we will continue to provide our clients with unprecedented results.

Adam Handelsman




Ranking Executive MBA Programs

I earned my executive MBA in 1984 from Rutgers University ("The best spare-time B-schools," In Depth, Nov. 12). Looking through the criteria BusinessWeek used to rank such programs, I notice that you overlooked a critical point: the qualifications of the faculty. Most of our Rutgers professors had master's degrees. Several had doctorates.

Janice Sachen


A fourth alternative to a full-time MBA is the online degree program. The rapid growth of our MBA program has occurred largely because of our online program. You should start looking into the online MBA programs, perhaps ranking them as well.

Alma Mintu-Wimsatt




Absences Make Up for Unpaid Overtime

If management can throw loss figures--what the company forfeits for each day a worker misses--in the faces of the employees ("Shirking working: The war on hooky," What's Next, Nov. 12), why can't the employees come back with their own figures about all the hours above the 35 per week they're required to work--for which they are never paid?

Aaron Woodin


The Push for Quick and Dirty Cost Cuts

In "Perform or Perish" (Cover Story, Nov. 5), Emily Thornton points out that private equity firms are pressuring the chief executive officers of their portfolio companies to improve profits at an accelerating pace, often through aggressive cost cutting.

There are many examples of corporations that have tried the "quick and dirty" approach to cost reduction, only to find that their quick wins were not sustainable over time. The top managers of any company, private or public, need to approach this subject in a thoughtful, strategic manner.

Robert Rudzki


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